What Unbreakable Looks Like by Kate McLaughlin

TW: Sexual Abuse, Rape, Sex Trafficking, Abuse, Drug Addiction, grooming.

My Rating: 5 stars!

Cover Rating: 7/10 it’s a really great cover! The poppy on the front represents Lex’s name while she was being Trafficked. The cover i think also shows the strength of character Lex has. It’s really great for this book!

Publisher: St. Martins Press

Publish Date: June 23rd, 2020

Number of Pages: 336 pages

Received: Netgalley provided an e-arc in exchange for an honest review

Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis: “Raw, unflinching, and authentic, Kate McLaughlin’s thoughtful What Unbreakable Looks Like carefully crafts a story exposing the vulnerability of underage trafficked girls and what it takes to begin the process of healing from sexual trauma.”–Christa Desir, author, advocate, and founding member of The Voices and Faces Project

Lex was taken–trafficked–and now she’s Poppy. Kept in a hotel with other girls, her old life is a distant memory. But when the girls are rescued, she doesn’t quite know how to be Lex again. 

After she moves in with her aunt and uncle, for the first time in a long time, she knows what it is to feel truly safe. Except, she doesn’t trust it. Doesn’t trust her new home. Doesn’t trust her new friend. Doesn’t trust her new life. Instead she trusts what she shouldn’t because that’s what feels right. She doesn’t deserve good things. 

But when she is sexually assaulted by her so-called boyfriend and his friends, Lex is forced to reckon with what happened to her and that just because she is used to it, doesn’t mean it is okay. She’s thrust into the limelight and realizes she has the power to help others. But first she’ll have to confront the monsters of her past with the help of her family, friends, and a new love.

Kate McLaughlin’s What Unbreakable Looks Like is a gritty, ultimately hopeful novel about human trafficking through the lens of a girl who has escaped the life and learned to trust, not only others, but in herself.”

Opening Sentence: “Clean sheets. That’s what I’m dreaming about when something wakes me up.”


First of all I am honored to have read a book like this one. It’s a hard hitter and I was in tears at so many points and yet it tells a truth of what goes on far too often. Yet, reading through it I never once feel like Lex is truly a victim. She comes out after everything standing tall and starts to figure out the kind of person she wants to grow up to be. Yet, the truth is she was given away to endure countless times of pure assaults to her person. What she went through. What so many young teens go through is an atrocity so foul I could never imagine what being in their shoes would be like. Reading through this book you can tell how much love went into it. How much research and care to write not only a story of a teen going through one of the worst things anyone could go through, but to also make it a story of hope.

I was in tears at the acknowledgments. Where Kate talks about the girl she’d spoken with who had gone through human Trafficking. Even re-reading it just now gets me teary eyed. No human being should have to go through this. Yet, I love that there is no brokenness to be found there. It truly is ‘What Unbreakable Looks Like’.

What I Loved:

The Friendship. Lex finds herself two amazing friends who support her and love her for all that she is. They don’t shy away from what she went through and they stand by her through it. They stay by her side and fight with her (and not just for her) to keep her safe and to lift her up.

The puppy! The part of the book that made me cry the most was when Lex gets a little Pitbull puppy. It’s one of the sweetest most hopeful moments and yet Lex feeling like she didn’t know if she deserved the love that that little one gave her broke my heart.

Lex’s Aunt. Lex’s aunt is such a wonderful soul. She fights for Lex and loves her truly for who she is. She’s gentle approaching her and talks with her openly. She is the kind of woman I think every child deserves to have in their lives. As their relationship grew closer it made my heart soar.

It’s difficult to read at times. With all the hope and the soaring highs this book has it is not without the dark parts. Knowing with detail at times some of the things she went through. How she was groomed. The drugs given to numb them out and keep them complacent. The awful condition the girls lived in. The pain inflicted upon them. Then the truth that many are killed and will never make it out. In a lot of ways this book is as educational as it is difficult. So much I didn’t realize about human trafficking. The weight of it is something no human being should bear. Let alone teens and children.

All in all:

This book is a must read. It’s unflinching and full of love and yet shows what true darkness looks like. The writing of which was handled with grace and with so much love. It is a book I will never forget.

About the Author

KATE McLAUGHLIN likes people, so much so that she spends her days making up her own. She likes writing about characters who are bent, but not broken – people who find their internal strength through friends, strife and sometimes humor. When she’s not writing, she likes studying people, both real and fictional. She also likes playing board games with friends, talking and discovering new music. A proud Nova Scotian, she’ll gladly tell you all about the highest tides in the world, the magical creation known as a donair, and people who have sofas in their kitchens. Currently, she lives in Connecticut with her husband and four cats. What Unbreakable Looks Like is her debut novel.

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4 thoughts on “What Unbreakable Looks Like: Blog Tour/ Review

  1. Wonderful review! I don’t think I could make it through this one, so kudos to you. It sounds so heartbreaking. But it sounds like Lexi is an amazing protagonist and the subject is handled with grace.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, it is difficult to read. I wanted that to be clear when I was writing my review because it is an extremely sensitive topic. Yet it was handled very well and it’s hopeful to the very end. It’s a beautiful book about something so very ugly.

      Liked by 1 person

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